By Katie Lovett
---- — NEWBURYPORT — As residents of the Crow Lane neighborhood once again deal with the pungent odors of hydrogen sulfide wafting from the Crow Lane landfill, Mayor Donna Holaday reached out to the state Department of Environmental Protection as the city continues to work toward a complete capping.
For the past several days, neighbors have logged complaints with the landfill owner, New Ventures, and chronicled their experiences in an email list to city and state officials and residents. The smell — similar to rotten eggs — emerges around 8 a.m. and then later in the evening for a couple of hours until the winds change direction, said Wildwood Drive resident Ron Klodenski yesterday.
For years, the Crow Lane neighborhood has been plagued by the smells of hydrogen sulfide emitting from the privately owned landfill. The pungent odor causes sleepless nights, as well as a variety of health ailments, including headaches, nausea, itchy eyes and sore throats. The presence of the odors has forced residents to cancel cookouts and family visits and ruined holidays.
The landfill was purchased in 2000 by the company New Ventures with the plan of closing it by heaping tons of demolition debris on top and capping it. Since then, city officials have been working to get it to the point of closure — a lengthy battle between the city and the landfill owner that at times has led to court action.
After a decade of complaining, Klodenski said he understands how his neighbors might be getting a little wary of calling in reports, but doing so is the only way to notify city officials that the problem is back, he said. “They don’t know otherwise,” he said.
Earlier this week, the stench grew so bad that his wife had to leave to get some relief, Klodenski said. When the odors emerge from 10 p.m. to after midnight like on Tuesday, he said, she can’t do that.
“It causes her a lot of discomfort with her eyes and sinuses,” he said.
The return of the smells caused residents to wonder what had happened at the landfill this time — and when this situation might finally come to an end.
“We too have been battling hydrogen sulfide for the past three nights,” wrote Alida Frey of Wilson Way. “Last night, the worst of all three! Nausea and burning eyes … nothing helped until the fog lifted and blew it in another direction.”
“Are the capture tanks saturated? Is the flare down? The flare should be dealing with this if it’s operating or operating efficiently,” she added. “After all these years completion and routine maintenance are still the pressing issues. What happens if...capital improvements are found to be necessary? Who will assure there is a scheduled plan for this to happen and when? If additional capital is required where will these funds come from? How long will it take to get the funds? This is a slippery slope we have traveled for a very long time, without ever having an ending. What will make it different this time?”
In a response sent yesterday, Holaday acknowledged that the flare that burns off the gases had stopped working and called the situation “unacceptable.”
“The flare is up and running again. This situation is totally unacceptable — 8 to 9 shutdowns in so many weeks,” she wrote. Despite New Ventures responding within 72 hours per settlement agreement to restart the flare, it should have been repaired at this juncture.”
The mayor said she would be receiving updates on the progress to repair the flare and would also be speaking with DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell about the situation as well. The state agency is assisting city officials in the process of bringing the landfill to a full capping. In May, Kimmell pledged to aid Newburyport in compelling New Ventures to take required actions to stop the release of the hydrogen sulfide.
For now, the Crow Lane neighbors can only hope that yet another long holiday weekend won’t be ruined by the smells.
“It’s been going on now for so long, we’re gun-shy about inviting people over,” Klodenski said. “It’s not that we know we’ll have the odors, but what if we do? People don’t do as much entertaining at home as they probably would otherwise.”
Problems plague Port neighborhood